What to know about the protests by Canada’s truckers
Truckers protesting vaccination mandates park their rigs in the middle of intersections in Canadian cities, blocking traffic and, in some places, bringing daily life and business to a standstill.
Mayor Jim Watson of Ottawa said, “We are in the midst of a serious emergency, the most serious emergency our city has ever faced. The protests quickly inspired similar convoys in Australia and New Zealand.
Here’s what you need to know about how a handful of people turned Canada, whose constitution calls for “peace, order and good government,” into an unlikely springboard for a nascent global movement.
Why are truckers striking?
On January 22, convoys of truckers left British Columbia en route to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to protest against a vaccination mandate – imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government – for truckers entering the country. from America.
Mr Trudeau initially called the protesters a “small marginal minority” – a majority of Canadians say they support public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus – but the protesters are having an outsized impact for their small numbers.
After initially blocking traffic in Ottawa, truckers later staged similar protests in other cities, including Toronto, Quebec and Calgary, as well as on the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, a lifeline for the auto industry.
In Ottawa, protesters are squatting. There are now tent camps, tables with hot coffee and mittens.
Even some of Mr Trudeau’s allies say the protesters’ overarching target – pandemic restrictions – deserves consideration.
Joel Lightbound, a Liberal MP from Quebec, said people concerned about government policies had “legitimate concerns” and that Mr Trudeau should not “demonize” people concerned about the restrictions.
What is the impact of these protests?
The goal is to disrupt the daily activities of residents and slow down the economy in order to force federal authorities to roll back pandemic restrictions.
Mayor Watson called the protests unbearable and declared a state of emergency. During the first 11 days of the protest, truck horns rang for up to 4 p.m. a day.
Crowds of protesters roam the streets of Ottawa, many wearing Canadian flags as capes or carrying them on hockey sticks.
Some residents say they have been harassed in the street, and say they have been frightened or even chased. Police were investigating a possible arson attempt in the lobby of a downtown building.
Some automakers have operated plants at reduced capacity and canceled shifts due to delays created by the lockdowns.
The organizers of the protest raised approximately C$10 million, or about $7.8 million, through GoFundMe for the Freedom Convoy cause, though only a small fraction of that amount was disbursed. After consulting with police, the company ended the campaign and said it would refund the rest of the money to donors, citing “violence and other illegal activity” during the protests.
Can the government evacuate the protesters?
It’s hard. There were thousands of protesters and Mr Trudeau ruled out using the military to break up the protests.
All towing companies hired by the City of Ottawa refused to tow the vehicles, city manager Steve Kanellakos told reporters.
More than 400 trucks and other vehicles were illegally parked throughout downtown, including right in front of the Parliament Building. Police seized canisters of fuel that were being delivered to protest camps.
Steve Bell, Ottawa’s deputy police chief, described the protesters as “very determined and unstable.” Police officials have requested an additional 1,800 officers, which would more than double the current size of the force.
Who is leading these protests?
The protests, which were once narrowly targeted, have turned into a sprawling campaign supporting, in some cases, far-right anti-government grievances.
Tamara Lich is a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy” that arrived in Ottawa. She previously worked as secretary of the relatively new Maverick Party, a centre-right group that was launched to promote the separation of the three prairie provinces in western Canada from the rest of the country. She is also a former fitness instructor who sang and played guitar in an Alberta band called Blind Monday.
Maxime Bernier is the leader of the far-right People’s Party of Canada, whose members are well represented among protesters in Ottawa. The party has no seat in the Federal Parliament.
James and Sandra Bauder are the leaders of a group calling itself Canada Unity, another main organizer of the truck convoy. According to Sky News, Mr Bauder “is a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory and has openly called for Mr Trudeau to be tried for treason over his Covid policies”.
What do the protest leaders want?
Speaking at a press conference in Ottawa, Ms Lich said: ‘Our departure will be based on the Prime Minister doing what is right, ending all warrants and restrictions on our freedoms.
Mr. Bernier has denounced the vaccination mandates and has already risen up against immigration and multiculturalism.
The Bauders have stated, among other things, that they support “the Constitution and the democratic process” and “Stay committed to following due process and respecting freedom of choice.”
What happens now?
Prepare for more protests. Far-right figures from several countries, including the United States, Australia and Germany, hailed the protests. And copycat convoys have already appeared in Australia and New Zealand.
Brian Brase, a trucker, said he was organizing a similar effort in the United States. According to posts on social media, the convoy may start in Sacramento and head towards Washington, D.C.
Organizers and attendees appear to be organizing through private message groups, including on Facebook and Telegram.